The Montauk Cutoff has been a Queens eyesore for years, an unused remnant of the much more widespread passenger rail system that used to weave among the New York streets. It makes a wavy C-shape from the old “Yard A” at its north end to its south terminus where Dutch Kills Tributary meets Newtown Creek, the dividing line between Queens and Brooklyn.
The Cutoff is the property of the Manhattan Transit Authority, who won’t be selling it, but they have put out a call for “Expressions of Interest,” which is to say proposals from organizations for community use of the space. And the running favorite proposal is “Wild Line,” the concept of an urban nature preserve from Long Island City architecture firm BanG Studio and Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm community.
Their proposal would turn the 1/3-mile long length of tracks into a nature sanctuary with native plants and structures to attract native pollinators, birds, and other wild life. Part of the space would be open to the pedestrians, and part of it would be reserved as animal sanctuary, open only to educational visits from students of all ages.
The space would also be filled with environmental-themed art. Ornamental bird- and bat-houses would dot the landscape, along with hive-shaped insect habitats and compost structures. One part would feature an installation called “Firefly Field.” Actual fireflies are uncommon in New York City, but the installation would give the effect of walking in a field of the insects with a series of illuminated aluminum posts.
“It will be a sanctuary for urban dwellers across the city,” reads BanG Studio’s plan. Long Island used to be covered in lush forests and eco-rich beach habitats. Nothing can bring those back, but some taste of it can be achieved.
The MTA has not made a decision yet, but says they are getting a stronger idea of what they want for the site.